“A knife capable of movement and gifted with intelligence …”
“On fitting your hand into that of the knife, you already feel a strange clasping in response when, suddenly, the mechanical fingers close! You can’t get free! With the same movement, an eye opens and stares at you intensely. It’s awake! Now you are under its control, and the knife is master of you who dared to take it in your grasp.”
Above: The Living Knife by Jean-Marc Laroche features a mechanical hand for a handle that, as you grab it, literally grabs you back. The damascus blade is a composite of 15N20, 15LM and UHB11 high-alloy nickel and carbon steels in explosion, twist and random patterns forged by Swedish maker Roger Bergh. Overall length: 25 inches. (images courtesy of Jean-Marc Laroche)
In addition to the above, French knifemaker/artist Jean-Marc Laroche refers to his latest creation—this issue’s cover piece—as “The Living Knife.” Since it has a “hand” for a handle with “fingers” that close, an “eye” and an overall lifelike appearance, who are we to argue? As you grab the handle, the “fingers” actually grab back so that it’s hard to tell who’s holding whom. And, as the fingers grab your hand, the “eye” opens. The hand also is embellished with gears in the Steampunk style.
The Living Knife is indeed a most unusual creation—but then Laroche has been making otherworldly pieces for over two decades. Even by his standards, though, this one takes his knife art into uncharted territory.
“It was from the cinema of fantasy films that I drew my inspiration,” he notes. “It took me 12 years to implement my idea, six months to carry it out and a fair number of technical difficulties had to be overcome.
“Yet here it is, like a cunning thing from another time that a mad inventor out of the 19th century would have dreamed up. This biomechanical being activates its workings to move its fingers; it seizes control of the situation with its eye’s intelligence.”
The Living Knife is an assembly of mechanical parts, the prototype having been made in resin. A few rare versions in bronze, gold and silver are in the process of being forged.
“Swedish knifemaker Roger Bergh participated in this project. Indeed, I have been talking to Roger about it for 10 years and he has always been enthusiastic,” Laroche observes. “Roger first forges damascus steel to obtain various types of structures; he then assembles them into magnificent combinations. A world-renowned knifemaker, he has remained down-to-earth and open. Working with him is a real pleasure.”
BLADE® first learned of Laroche at the 1992 East Coast Custom Knife Show, where his knives with “alien-head” handles were a show hit. The alien heads were those of animals he customized and coated with a special resin.
In 1997 Laroche’s “Mother Ship with Fighters”—a set of four knives including one large one and three smaller ones with dagger blades and curved, claw-like guards—was a winner of the annual BLADEhandmade Best In Show Award. His “Byakhee,” a spectacular knife with a handle resembling a large, bat-like bird inspired by the science-fiction stories of H.P. Lovecraft, won Best Fantasy Knife at the 1998 BLADE Show West.
Laroche introduced The Living Knife to an appreciative audience this past June at the FICX, an invitation-only knife show in Paris that also featured a few U.S. makers, including Kevin Casey. It was Jean-Marc’s first knife show since 2002. Since then he had been involved in other forms of sculpture and exhibiting them worldwide.
Actually, The Living Knife is not Laroche’s first attempt at such a piece, his “Devil Hand” predating it. However, the Devil Hand did not have the mechanical grasping capability, the same materials or other select features of Laroche’s newest rendition. Laroche said he also has made two knives similar to The Living Knife, the first being sold to the Instituto Ricardo Brennand (http://www.institutoricardobrennand.org.br/index2.html), a museum in Recife, Brazil.
For a video on how The Living Knife operates, watch the video below: